NAHL, Bobcats alum Shepard wins NHL debut | North American Hockey League | NAHL
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NAHL, Bobcats alum Shepard wins NHL debut

October 26, 2023

Hunter Shepard won his NHL debut on Wednesday night. He played 94 career regular season and playoff games in the NAHL and played in the 2016 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament.

Former North American Hockey League (NAHL) and Bismarck Bobcats goaltender Hunter Shepard made his NHL debut on Wednesday night with the Washington Capitals in their 6-4 win over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Making his NHL debut in front of a host of family and friends, Shepard stopped 18 of the 22 shots he faced to record his first NHL victory in his first NHL start. The Caps supported Shepard with their biggest offensive outburst of the season; they struck for three in the first and three in the third, which was enough to overcome a four-goal New Jersey onslaught in the middle period.

“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet,” said Shepard. “I’m just excited to get out there and see my parents. It’s been a very emotional day.”

Shepard was a happy benefactor of the Caps’ six-pack attack, and he briefly reflected on the winding road that put him in the win column in New Jersey on a Wednesday night in October.

“It’s pretty crazy,” says Shepard. “I think a year ago at this time – or a year and a half ago – I was probably the fifth goalie on the depth chart. And with the guys in front of you, it’s hard to even get time up in Hershey.

“It’s weird. A year and a half sounds fast, but when you’re not where you want to be it doesn’t seem fast. I’ve really enjoyed every level that I’ve played at. I wouldn’t trade my path to get to today for anything.”

Watch: Hunter Shepard post-game comments

Shepard, who played in the NAHL for the Bobcats during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, joins an elite list of former Bismarck players to reach the highest level of professional hockey. 

“It was an honor to have the privilege of coaching Hunter,” Bobcats head coach Layne Sedevie said. “What set him apart from others I’ve coached is the fact he knocked on my office door every morning and wanted to do extra. To see him finally get rewarded for his hard work, especially when everyone said he wouldn’t make it this far, shows what kind of person he is. He proved everybody wrong. He’s done that his whole life. For him to finally start a game in the National Hockey League is a dream come true, and proud moment for me and the entire Bobcats organization.”

With Bismarck, Shepard logged a career save percentage of .910 and goals against average of 2.50 through 94 regular season and playoff games. He also played in the 2016 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament for the Central Division team.

After his time with the Bobcats, Shepard became a regular starter at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Shepard was instrumental in the Bulldogs winning back-to-back national championships during his junior and senior seasons. In 119 games with the Bulldogs, the Cohasset, Minnesota native won 76 contests, posting 17 shutouts.

Following his collegiate career, Shepard signed with Washington as a free agent. Through 91 professional games between AHL Hershey and ECHL South Carolina, Shepard has posted a record of 54-26-9.

 
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